Some thoughts on Mactel

The long-denied switch of Apple from PowerPC to Intel chips was announced today.

This will NOT be a big deal for end users. There will be an emulator, so most (all?) current apps will run on the new Intel-based machines. The biggest difference will be that the new machines will be cheaper and faster. Do you care what kind of chip is inside your TV? Nope, you care how it works. In this case it will work exactly the same. You might see an Intel logo instead of a PowerPC logo on the box, but the computers themselves will look the same as they would if they had PowerPC chips in them.

This has nothing to do with “Thinking Different” and that ad campaign was never about the processor. This is about thinking cheaper and faster, but not necessarily quieter or cooler-running as Pentiums tend to be size and heat monsters.

It will be the most work for developers, though those that already develop software for Intel chips will likely welcome it.

This is good and bad for Microsoft. Bad: Intel is hedging its bets on Apple. Good: VirtualPC will be frickin’ fast! These machines will NOT run Windows. (Until someone hacks a Mac to do it, but why would you want that? To finally have a good-looking PC?) What might be interesting is if Microsoft went the other way and started supporting PowerPC processors. They’ve already done some work for the Xbox 360.

The biggest problem I see now for Apple is who will want to buy a PowerMac now? Mine is 5 1/2 years old now and I don’t really want to buy another unless it’s Intel-based. That means I’m keeping my money for at least another year.

Long term this will be a great thing for the Mac, but change is hard.

One Comment

  1. Apple’s developers docs list the limitations of Rosetta:
    â–  Applications built for Mac OS 8 or 9
    â–  Code written specifically for AltiVec
    â–  Code that inserts preferences in the System Preferences pane
    â–  Applications that require a G4 or G5 processor
    â–  Applications that depend on one or more kernel extensions
    â–  Kernel extensions
    ■ Bundled Java applications or Java applications with JNI libraries that can’t be translated

    Other classes of problems:
    – You can’t mix native and non-native plugins (e.g. legacy photoshop plugins won’t work on Intel when Photoshop moves to a universal binary)
    – Endian issues could occur during file interchange between a rosetta emulated app on Intel and the native version on PowerPC.

    See the Rosetta section in this document for more information:

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